Urgency in climate financing talks wonderful. Now to see some results

Travis Mitchell is a man who appears to know what he’s talking about. 

Judging from his comments in Apia this week, the Head of the Small States Unit of the Commonwealth Secretariat sounds like a man who knows the urgency of the problems at hand and what exactly is needed by small countries, like Samoa, to address them - money.

Let’s qualify this a bit more. Money will not solve all our problems but small countries do need money – and lots of it - to mitigate and to protect themselves against the dangers caused by global warming and climate change. That’s the simple truth.

In the wake of the devastation caused by Cyclone Idai in Mozambique this week, which has already killed more than 700 people and counting, Mr. Mitchell told an international audience in Apia the conversations taking place at the TATTE Building on Beach Road cannot be business as usual. 

He was speaking at the 5th Commonwealth Global Biennial Conference on Small States, dedicated to improving small state’s access to climate financing. 

The meeting is a big deal for Samoa as it is the first time it has been held in the Pacific and so this week, senior officials from 23 Commonwealth countries as well as regional and international development partners gathered in Samoa for some very important conversations.

According to Mr. Mitchell, these conversations are  “crucial to our survival.” 

How? Why? “Volatility is now the new normal,” he said, referring to the increasingly severity of storms and the frequency of natural disasters in the last decade. “I implore you to treat these discussions with the importance they deserve.”

Well that’s the attitude Mr. Mitchell! The key word here is urgency. The victims of these climate calamities really don’t have time to waste.  The problem is that all around the world, when it comes to issues like climate change – or any one of these pressing challenges - there are just far too many conversations taking place, involving far too many people. 

And while they all pretend they are serious – as if the world will be immediately redeemed - the truth us that some of these conversations only contribute to global warming through the utter waste of resources, money, gas emissions and a lot of hot air being blown out during those conversations.

Now don’t take this the wrong way, we do not deride the value of discussing the issues. We always believe that keeping the conversations alive and bringing the issues to the forefront of our attention is better than ignoring them to the point they are completely forgotten.

 But let’s be truthful here folks. The world as we know it today has been talking for too long. There have been far too many meetings, countless talkfests and so much money and valuable resources wasted on these talks. 

What people need to see are actions. And results. That’s what matters.

How are those meetings and the so-called outcomes, communiqués or whatever fancy name they call the final outcome, changing lives for the better?

How are those forums – often held at some of most expensive and exclusive venues in some exotic locations – helping people at grassroots level who are mostly affected by the issues being discussed? Would it be wrong to call it a circus for people who enjoy turning and pretending to be busy doing something when in fact they are only collecting their allowances and piling up the mileages on their air points? 

These are real questions. While they are not new, we need to be reminded time and time again because as members of the public, we have a responsibility to hold our leaders to account for these issues. 

After all, taxpayers’ monies are being used for these conversations. In some cases, they are aid monies that could otherwise be used to improve the delivery of health care and education for people in the villages. It’s aid monies that could be used to build better roads and allow farmers to improve their lot.

This is why the urgency from Mr. Mitchell in Apia this week is important. 

As he said, “volatility is now the new normal.” In other words, natural disasters don’t discriminate when they strike. They do not care that there is another meeting discussing what framework or whose accord and what they are going to name it. 

 “After almost 40 years of advocacy, the Commonwealth Secretariat, partners and affected countries have succeeded in convincing the world that small states are vulnerable,” Mr. Mitchell said. “This discussion is very much solutions-focused, so what we want is for countries to leave this room knowing what they have to do to tackle disaster risk."

Well today is the last day of the meeting. Can all these officials gathering in Apia – including the man of the hour, Mr. Mitchell, guarantee us that they have achieved something meaningful to solve the problems at hand? 

Or do they need another meeting to discuss the outcome of this meeting so they can call another meeting? Whatever the case, we do hope all the delegates have enjoyed their week in Samoa and that they have had sometime to take in some local culture so they can spread the word about our small slice of paradise when they go home. 

In the meantime, have a fabulous day Samoa, God bless!

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